2 Day Food Styling, Writing, and Photography Class

In this hands-on, multipart, one-and-half-day workshop, Sheryl Julian and Sally Vargas will guide participants through what it takes to style, shoot, and write about food in a compelling and successful way.

Former food editor for the Boston Globe, Julian is a cookbook author, food stylist, and writer with over thirty years of experience in food media. Vargas is a professional cook, writer, and photographer and the author of several books, including and the newly published The Cranberry Cookbook.

Day 1

In part one, the class discusses social media, blogs, books, and cameras, as well as what makes an effective and successful shot (with hands-on practice), a slide show of a dish photographed from start to finish, photo critique, and more. All photos are shot with available light, so you can reproduce at home what you learn in the workshop.

Day 2

In part two, focus turns to photographing and blogging, as students rotate between shooting a main course dish and undertaking a blog or writing critique. Students and instructors will sit together and dine on the photo food with a discussion during lunch. All levels are welcome, whether you use your phone to shoot for social media or have invested in a camera to produce photos for a blog.


The class will meet at the BU College of Fine Arts Photography Studio from noon – 5 PM on April 20th and 10 AM – 5 PM on April 21st. The cost of the class is $650. You can register for the class here.

The 10 Commandments of Food Photography

Photos and Article by Jerrelle Guy (@chocolateforbasil)

Photography is just another way of communicating, and successful photography communicates as clearly as possible while also making the viewer feel something; when talking about food photography, hopefully that feeling is “hungry”. Here is a list of 10 food-capturing commandments for shooting food that can make any viewer stop in their tracks.

1. Good Lighting

This is the most important rule of all, so it takes the #1 spot on the list. You don’t need expensive camera equipment or a fully stocked photo studio to build the illusion of natural light, just use natural light–one strong and direct source of natural light, streaming through a window, one that doesn’t create harsh shadows on the food. Above all else, stay away from the flash button. Flash flattens the food and erases a lot of the details that make the food look naturally mouthwatering.

2. Avoid Blurriness

Make sure your photo is as crisp as possible.  Wipe down your lens and adjust your focus before you start snapping.  This may seem silly or obvious, but if you’re like me, and you’re styling your food, propping your food, AND shooting your food all at the same time, it’s easy to forget about this step— there are so many other things to be thinking about. But always double check to make sure you didn’t mistakenly smudge the lens with greasy fingers, definitely adjust the lens to get everything you want to capture in clear focus, and if you have shaky hands, use a tripod.

3. Have a Focal Point

Speaking of things in focus, make sure you’re asking yourself where you want your viewers’ eyes to go first. As the photographer, you have complete control of the story you’re telling, and you can make your viewer focus on anything you deem most important, whether that be the drips on the edge of a chocolate cake or the whole cake itself. Each variation tells a different story. The following are some tips to create better focus in your narrative:

  • Put the object you’re showcasing right in the middle of the composition or just off to the side so the viewer can’t avoid it.
  • Adjust your aperture to give less important things in the photo a softer focus, making them fall to the background.
  • Make sure there is enough space around the object to help it pop off the page (And this leads us into the next commandment…)

4. Utilize the Power of Negative Space

Leaving enough space in the photo for your eyes to rest around the object of attention helps clarify your message. Too many objects can confuse the viewer, and overcomplicate what you’re trying to get across, even if all you’re trying to say is “look at how bubbly and gooey this lasagna is!” We all appreciate lots of space to comfortably take it all in.

5. No Distracting Background Noise

When it comes to propping your food, whether you’re using a tablecloth or your favorite serving tray, pick natural and solid colors or at least colors that compliment the food. Crazy patterns and saturated colors feel unnatural, and are usually a no no. Try whites and ivories, deep blues, dark greys or browns instead.

6. Find the Perfect Angle

Decide if you what to enter the photo directly from the side, at a ¾ angle, or directly from above. A lot of times the object you’re shooting will make this decision for you. Just ask yourself “which angle offers the most information?” And that’s probably the angle you should shoot from. For example, if you’re shooting a trifle or a tiramisu, it’ll probably want to be shot from the side or at least from a ¾ angle so that you can capture all the different ingredients and layers–if you shot it from above you’d lose that information and the viewer might not understand right away what it is they’re looking at. The reverse is true when shooting soup or something in a bowl–a down shot would probably show the most information.

7. Details are in the Garnishes

This is my favorite tip because it brings more personality to your dish.  Adding garnishes (of course, only those that were used while cooking or those that compliment the flavor profile of the finished dish) creates details for your eye to get lost in. It doesn’t have to be everywhere in the photo but in a few places here and there to help break up the larger shapes and colors. Sesame seeds on a bagel create something so exciting and stimulating on what would otherwise be a boring piece of white bread.

Some of my favorite last minute garnishes: black sesame seeds, chopped herbs like parsley, cilantro and rosemary, and any and all spices, especially cayenne pepper and paprika (because they’re so vibrant!).

8. Patterns/Textures

The eyes love being given a recognizable shape to stare at over and over again. Patterns of food like chocolate truffles in the grids of a chocolate box, stacked brownies, a stocked fridge with rows of produce, it all creates structure in the middle of chaos, which can be very soothing to the eye and comforting to the mind.

9. Imperfection

Getting caught up in making everything tweezer-perfect is important in the world of commercial food photography, but when it comes to taking personal photos that feels more realistic, try not to get caught up in getting everything picture perfect; be flexible, be a little messy, maybe even shoot it after you’ve taken a few bites of the food. This makes the food feel more inviting and more natural, which is usually the goal, because it makes the viewer feel like they’re there, biting into the food with you.

10. Post- Editing Software

This is my final piece of advice, because it comes only after you’ve followed all proceeding steps.  But don’t be fooled, it is SO important for making your food stand out amongst the flood of amateur food photos. Find your favorite photo editing software, and use it religiously, practice different filters and adjust those settings until you find something that works for you. This will take your photo over the top and surely stop people in their tracks.

Food Photography Workshop with Nina Gallant

Photo by Nina Gallant
Photo by Nina Gallant

by Audrey Reid

We all love drooling over those stunning pictures of food in magazines and online. Don’t deny it, you are reading a food blog, of course you love to look at food. Well, it is people like Nina Gallant that we have to thank for appeasing our delightful addiction. Nina is a food photographer. She has a knack for revealing the truth of a dish. Like a sculpture, it is what it is, but finding the right way to portray it takes time, talent, and vision.

Photo by Nina Gallant
Photo by Nina Gallant

Nina’s family has always been in the food business. So intimidatingly so, that she left Massachusetts to pursue a more artistic outlet at The Cooper Union School of Art in New York. Nevertheless, no matter how much she thought she was escaping the family profession, her work always seemed to return to themes of food and hospitality. It wasn’t until she was working as a photographer’s assistant on a food shoot, though, that she had her great ‘aha’ moment to become a food photographer. Since then, she has opened her own brick-and-mortar studio in Allston, working on cookbooks, food product packaging, and the occasional portrait.

Nina recently joined the Boston University community to share her skills with eager students and community members. This spring, she is leading a workshop on the essentials of food photography through the BU Metropolitan College Program of Food, Wine & the Arts. Following the four week course, which meets on Saturdays in April and May, students will be comfortable using their cameras on manual and editing their photos in Photoshop Elements. To be a good photographer, you must be able to see the end result and know how to overcome your limitations to get there. This is where Nina comes in.

Photo by Nina Gallant
Photo by Nina Gallant

Nina’s goal is to find students who want to learn how to use their cameras as more than a point-and-shoot, and those who want to learn the finer techniques of capturing the perfect food shot, and transform them into confident, capable food photographers. During the first two weeks, Nina will teach students how to maximize the use of their camera’s settings, frame a shot, and to manipulate and enhance photos in Photoshop Elements. The third week will be an adventure into the field to learn about taking photographs of foods as you might normally encounter them. The last session will be a day of eating and photo sharing. Each student will have chosen a dish or meal to photograph at home and will display their creative vision in a mini art show. The more you do, the easier it gets. So yes, there will be homework, but only the fun kind.

This amazing workshop is for photographers of every experience level who wish for a little guidance in their practice and are seeking that ‘aha’ moment where everything clicks into place.

For more information about dates, requirements, and pricing, please visit the Program of Food, Wine & Arts website.
To see more of Nina’s work, visit her website at ninagallant.com

Audrey Reid is president of the Gastronomy Students Association, manager of the Gastronomy at BU blog, and in her final semester of the Gastronomy Program. She has a BS in Chemistry, is a graduate of the Culinary Arts Program, and is earning her MLA with a concentration in Food Policy.

Notes from the International Conference on Food Styling and Photography at BU

by Meg Jones Wall

Photo by Meg Jones Wall

“How many photographers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Ten. One to screw it in, and nine others to say, ‘Oh, I could’ve done that.’ ”

You may not be laughing, but Clare Ferguson’s joke was a big hit at this weekend’s third bi-annual International Conference on Food Styling and Photography, hosted by Boston University’s Gastronomy program and organized by industry leaders Lisa Golden Schroeder and John Carafoli. Bringing together professionals from across the food industry, this conference covered a wide variety of topics highly relevant to both experienced and amateur photographers and stylists.

The four-day event began this past Friday, covering advanced food styling and photography techniques. The morning was spent with Delores Custer, author of Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera, and the afternoon followed three sets of photographers and food stylists, allowing attendees to watch them create sets of photos built around a central theme – cheese. Among the photographers and stylists were Viktor Budnik, Deborah Jones, Jeffrey Kauck, Karen Tully, and Nir Adar. Saturday and Sunday, the main portion of the conference, featured presentations by a number of accomplished professionals, including Ilene Bezahler, David Ledsinger, Jamie Tiampo, Clark Dever, Kate Baldwin, and Antoinette Bruno. Monday’s sessions focused on food blogging, exploring successful elements and photos tips, as well as looking at how to incorporate video and multimedia services into a business model.

As a gastronomy student developing a food photography blog and a searching for a place in the food world, this conference was inspiring – and incredibly intimidating. I attended all four days of the conference, and the morning before the first session, I was so nervous I thought I wouldn’t last the day. But most of the participants were thrilled to meet both professionals and students, sharing their tips for breaking into the business, resources for learning industry skills, and ideas for growth and development. I made a lot of contacts, as well as some new friends, and I can’t even begin to express how much I’ve learned – it’ll probably take me at least a week to sort through my notes and process all the information.

Photo by Meg Jones Wall

I’ve been asked about my conference notes, and am happy to share them once I get them typed and organized – if you’re interested in a copy, feel free to contact me. I’ll also post them to my blog by the end of the week, separated by day (http://ginger-snapped.com).

For more information on the International Conference on Food Styling and Photography, as well as a full list of speakers and presentations, visit the conference website.

Meg Jones Wall is a full-time student in Boston University’s Masters of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy program. She is an avid writer, photographer and cook, and plans to complete her thesis this fall.

Update: All four days of conference notes are now available at ginger-snapped in downloadable PDF format.